I live in an area that is gentrified. TriBeCa, like most New York neighborhoods, is mostly white and wealthy. It had been mostly spice merchants and coffee traders. My parents moved into the neighborhood 22 years ago, just before TriBeCa made the conversion from a wholesale center to a residential neighborhood. They moved in when the beach was still here. Apparently, there used to be some happening beach parties.
Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people use the word ‘gentrified’ more as a negative adjective to describe an area that, 20 years ago, they would have explained was “much nicer and safer than it was 20 years ago.”
As a result of gentrification, neighborhoods that once boasted impressive cultural, and maybe even economic diversity, starts to look like white suburbia. That’s not always a bad thing. With rich people come better schools, supermarkets, fitness clubs, safer streets, and great coffee.
But there is a tipping point. Like natural oil, there comes a time in a neighborhood’s life when there are no more secrets to unearth for the enjoyment of the upper-middle class. After a while, the traffic gets to be too much. All the old, beautiful warehouses are mined to extinction. The riverfront properties are occupied. The restaurants get too expensive and are, in the end, not even that good.
The younger crowd, the ones who live six to an apartment, move to Greenpoint. The mom with her awful ribbons and pearls moves back to Maplewood, New Jersey. Residents begin to slur the name of their neighborhood, as if embarrassed to admit they live in an area clearly past peak. “I live in, um, So – achem –Ho. But I usually only go out at 6 in the morning when the streets are empty.”
There’s nothing white people hate more than a gentrified neighborhood. It’s so passé. Boring
But I still love TriBeCa. We’ve still got the gazebo in Washington Market Park. We still have some mildly sketchy teenagers hanging out on the plaza. We’ve still got some rent control–ish. Yes, the neighborhood is slipping. Anyone who moved in while the beach was still here will tell you so. But it’s not all lost yet. The trick, now, is getting all that gentrification has erased, back.